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Local Iron Men fabricate steel sculptures and other art naturally


The work of Rod and Mert Blood is recognized near & far



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Rod Iron Design's most recent creation — a seven-foot-high sculpture. Rod Blood designed the birds from a bird he taxidermed. (Rod Iron Design Photo). (click for larger version)
May 27, 2010
"Let's see, Mert, you're 36, and I have been doing this long before you were born. Probably 40 years," says Rod. The business is a real family affair. Rod's sister, Pat Thurston, joins the men and paints the pieces they design. The business is aptly named Rod Iron Designs.

"Mert, Pat and I work together; these are the two other talented people," says Rod about their business. Mert and Rod create three-dimensional wall pieces, three to four layers deep, three feet long or more, then Pat takes care of the painting. Pieces are generally commissioned by homeowners and hung over fireplaces or hung on large wall spaces. "She [Pat] really makes it look good," says Rod appreciatively.

The pieces made from steel are nature scenes, including wildlife and trees. Ducks, turtles, birds, insects, trees, and reeds can also be found in the sculptures. Rod Iron Designs just completed its most unusual piece — a seven-foot nature sculpture for a couple from Stratham, N.H. The couple had seen a smaller version of Rod's creation at the Fryeburg Fair and asked Rod and Mert to build them a larger version.

Speaking of the Fair, that's where one can find Rod, Mert and Pat to see their work. The team does one show a year, at the Fryeburg Fair, and people come from near and far to see their works of art.

Rod Iron Designs creates house signs, lamp post signs, hand rails, sculptures, fireplace screens, and they will take special orders. Rod Iron Designs gets job requests from people all over the country.

Rod says they can ship anywhere. "We can ship all over the country, but we're not much into shipping; we make people come here," he says.

And "here" is their home and shop in Lovell. The trio also displays at the White Mountain Artisans in North Conway and designed the wrought iron tree trunk spiraling up the stairs to the second level.

Many of the handrails in the Valley were created by Rod. His work can be found at Fryeburg Academy, at Cranmore, at Story Land, at the Bagel Shop, at numerous homes throughout the Valley and western Maine, and Thorne Pond across from Attitash Bear Peak.

Not to mention that Rod worked at Attitash for 25 years. His work is prolific there, including Ptarmigan's Pub, and the entire snowmaking system's iron and steel and compressor room valve house. "I was the head of fabricating and maintenance as far as steel working goes," explains Rod.

The team works in other medium, too. Pieces are often made from tree knurls, fungus, brass and other metals.

Rod explains that working with knurls is labor intensive. Most people don't know the work involved.

"You have to peel the bark off the knurl, then pressure wash it. This can take seven days," says Rod. Knurls are usually turned into coffee tables. Rod Iron Designs gets the knurls from local loggers.

"Our work is organic in nature," says Mert. "It is unusual and different," he adds.

They buy their steel locally, too. "We don't do junk art. We buy our steel from Isaacson's in Berlin," says Mert. Sometimes Rod goes to the dump to look for steel, but he concurs with Mert: "We don't do pop art. Most of our steel is new steel."

Neither of the men have had any formal training in ironworking.

"When I was a kid I was always working with nuts and bolts," says Mert. He went to college and after college began working with his dad. "Our work is an evolution," he added.

Rod proudly displays a piece he did 35 years ago, a horse and buggy snow roller from the 1800s. The figurine shows horses pulling a wagon. On top of the wagon are heavy rods. The rods add weight to the buggy to compact the snow while the horses pull. Rod says he got the idea from a history book.

No formal training, no advertising; how do people know?

"You can't go up and down the strip [North Conway] without seeing our work. The Valley knows, the word is out," says Rod.

For more information, call 207-925-0000 or e-mail Mert at mertonblood@yahoo.com.

Mert says they are working on a Facebook page, coming soon.

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